I would like to start a thread, similar to Orpheus’ jazz site, for lovers of classical music. I will list some of my favorite recordings, CDs as well as LP’s. While good sound is not a prime requisite, it will be a consideration. Classical music lovers please feel free to add to my lists. Discussion of musical and recording issues will be welcome.
I’ll start with a list of CDs. Records to follow in a later post.
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique. Chesky — Royal Phil. Orch. Freccia, conductor. Mahler: Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Vanguard Classics — Vienna Festival Orch. Prohaska, conductor. Prokofiev: Scythian Suite et. al. DG — Chicago Symphony Abbado, conductor. Brahms: Symphony #1. Chesky — London Symph. Orch. Horenstein, conductor. Stravinsky: L’Histoire du Soldat. HDTT — Ars Nova. Mandell, conductor. Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances. Analogue Productions. — Dallas Symph Orch. Johanos, cond. Respighi: Roman Festivals et. al. Chesky — Royal Phil. Orch. Freccia, conductor.
All of the above happen to be great sounding recordings, but, as I said, sonics is not a prerequisite.
All my life I've tried to have the aha classical moment. Has never happened, with one exception: Gorecki #3. I own four versions. I find it profound. I own ten records by others, I try each annually to see if I'll warm up to them. One other contender maybe: Saint-Saens #3.
Great thread idea, RV, and thanks for starting it. Also, kudos to Ghosthouse for suggesting the idea in your "Do classical CDs made from early analog tapes sound better on your system than new CDs?” thread.
A strong +1 re your mention of the Horenstein/LSO recording of Brahms’ First on Chesky. As I said in the other thread, it’s probably my all-time favorite symphony, and this recording is magical.
Some additional favorites of mine. I have all of them on LP unless otherwise noted:
--Any of the recordings of solo piano music by Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert on the French Astrée label, performed on period instruments by Paul Badura-Skoda. Incredible sonics (at least on the LP versions; I have no knowledge of that label’s CDs), and wonderful music beautifully performed.
--Dvorak “New World” Symphony, Horenstein/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on a Chesky CD. Music that I would expect to be immediately appealing even to those who are not by any means aficionados of classical symphonic music; a wonderful performance; and as I said in your other thread:
I find the sonics on this recording to be so amazing that I would expect anyone having a bias against the CD format would find themselves re-thinking their outlook after hearing it.
--Chopin “Piano Sonata No. 3,” Edward Auer on an RCA Japan Direct-to-Disc LP. --Chopin, “Piano Sonata No. 3,” Hyperion Knight on a Wilson Audio CD.
This beautiful music is perhaps my favorite piano sonata, and these recordings are the best overall combinations of sonics and performance I am aware of.
--"Danses Anciennes de Hongrie" -- Clemencic Consort (Harmonia Mundi France). --“Musique de la Grèce Antique” [i.e., music of ancient Greece] -- Gregorio Paniagua, Atrium Musicae de Madrid (Harmonia Mundi France)
It’s hard to go wrong with just about any recording on the French Harmonia Mundi label. And the music on many of their recordings that is from the Renaissance and other early times is generally just plain fun to listen to.
Stravinsky “Firebird Suite,” Robert Shaw/Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Telarc. This excellent performance of a very likeable work may have the widest dynamic range of any recording I have ever heard, other than Telarc’s recording of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with the notorious cannon blasts.
Hopefully you’ll get some ideas on this thread that will turn you on. Sonically, my recommendations above all are excellent. You might want to try the Stravinsky L’Histoire du Soldat on HDTT for sonic realism. Maybe the best sound I ever heard. (If you don’t know the site already, Google it. You can purchase a download or a disc.)
Thanks for starting this, RV and thanks for the acknowledgment, Al.
I’m not a huge classical music aficionado but over the years, some pieces have certainly captivated me. Two that have are:
1) Stravinsky’s "Symphony of Psalms". Another commendable work by IS. The version I own is below as listed in Discogs. Not saying the recording is audiophile quality but I do enjoy the music very much.
From Discogs... Stravinksky* / Poulenc* - Saramae Endich, The Robert Shaw Chorale and RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra, Robert Shaw – Symphony Of Psalms / Gloria Label: RCA Victor Red Seal – LSC-2822
From Discogs... 2) Isaac Stern - Leonard Bernstein - New York Philharmonic* - Barber* / Hindemith* – Two Twentieth Century Masterpieces - Violin Concertos Label: Columbia Masterworks – MS 6713
The above a gift received many years ago. Everyone knows Samuel Barber’s "Concerto for Violin & Orchestra" (and rightly so) but it was Paul Hindemith’s violin concerto on the same LP that won me over. Here on You Tube is the Hindemith concerto from the same LP. Hope you enjoy it. PH doesn’t get enough love ;-)
I bought a London Treasury series copy of this record when I was a teenager, and still listen to the recording, though I have accumulated a variety of different copies, I still do not own the first Decca. But, in its various incarnations, it is a wonderful performance and recording and short of the original Decca copy, can be gotten cheaply: https://www.discogs.com/master/view/551677
rvpiano, FWIW I'll contribute a bit, but since I (and many others) have already posted in the past to lists of best/favorites etc and I'm too old to just replicate those recommendations, I'm just going to post about music/performers/genre that I'm currently listening to, without regard to professional competency or audiophile credentials. I really like this stuff and It sounds good to me. That's it folks!
I'm currently focusing (mostly) on music for the solo piano and recently discovered a label that supports some newer pianists performing more uncommon/ unusual pieces along with some common ones, some eclectic, but all assessible and enjoyable, in balanced compilations. Happily the audio is also excellent.
Here are a few on the Steinway & Son's label:
Get Happy - Jenny Lin Grand Romance - Jeffery Biegel LaValse - Sean Chen The Rascal and the Sparrow - Antonio Pompa- Bald Exiles Cafe- Lara Downes American Again - Lara Downes Siegfried Idyll - David Deveau
Today I'm having a Gilbert & Sullivan fest! Love that stuff. Still sing it but now in the shower only. :-)
Mahler 5th Lorin Maazel and Cleveland Symph. Telarc Racmaninov 2 and 3 Horacio Guitierrez Telarc Anything Academy of ancient music Sir Chris Hogwood Naxos and Chandos and Mercury living presence labels Don Giovanni Ricardo Muti EMI Anything from Neville Mariner or Benjamin Zander +1 Fritz Reiner
I’ll just mention a dozen or so works that everyone agrees are basic to the Classical repertoire. Over the years I’ve noticed that many come to Classical through smaller pieces so I’ll start with them . Used to be some PBS stations would have a listener poll of their favorite chamber(small) works every few years .
Time after time the top choice was Schubert’s Quintet in A "The Trout", a complement of sting trio with added piano and double base . One of my favorite recording is Rudolf Serkin and company on Sony Classic SMK46252, this has the added gift of also having one of the other masterworks, Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet . As with all I mention there are many good recordings of everything, the listener reviews on Amazon are usually helpful .
A string Quartet that has some of just plain beautiful music ever written is Claude Debussy’s Quartet in G minor Op.10 . A wonderful recording is by the Guarneri Quartet on RCA, coupled with the great Ravel Quartet in F as is often the case with the Debussy .
My favorite work for the Violin and Piano duo(a lot of peoples favorite duo) is Cesar Franks , Violin Sonata in A . Of the perhaps 7-8 thousand recordings I’ve owned if I could have only one for the rest of my life, I’d choose the one of this by the great Korean artist Kung Wha Chung on violin and the stupendous Romanian pianist Radu Lupu . They bring out the French elegance of this masterpiece in a way that is rare . .I seldom say anything or anybody is the "greatest" , but this is the greatest recording I’ve ever heard so there -LOL .
In the bigger Orchestral works a piece I have easily heard a thousand times and yet remains ever fresh in my ears is something Norway’s greatest composer Edvard Grieg wrote as incidental music for the play "Peer Gyynt" by Norway’s greatest playwright Henrik Ibsen . A great recording of "Peer Gynt’ is the San Francisco Symphony under Herbert Blomstedt , London 425 448-2 .
Two works by one of the greatest and IMO most original modern composers , the great Czech Leos Janacek, that seem to catch the fancy of new listeners are his "Sinfonietta" and his "Slavonic Mass" . Strong powerful works that go from the beautiful to the brutal in a flash that always sounds that’s as it should be ! He writes his music to fit the Czech language so you want a Czech band for these , the Czech Philarmonic/Sir Charles Mackerras are the go-to for these .
A concerto that everyone seems to like is the "Concierto de Aranjuez" by the modern Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo. A guitar work that is just plain fun . A nice recording of this is Carlos Bonell with the Montreal Symphony under Charles Dutoit . There are a lot of wind solo’s in this and at the time the Montreal winds were to die for .
Concerto’s they everybody dies for are the "Brandenburg Concertos ’ by J.S, Bach , the daddy of them all . The 6 encompass the entire Baroque concerto grosso literature with constantly changing patterns and players playing both leading and supporting roles that many of the great jazz artists have gone to school on . My fave is the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra / Tom Koopman . . For solo piano great piece to start with is Robert Schumann’s "Carnaval". Artur Rubinstein made nice work of this on RCA .
Last by not least is Vivaldi’s " Four Seasons " If you wish to hear same in magnificent sound try Nils-Erik Sparf; Drottingholm Baroque Ensemble BIS CD-275
Thanks for that nicely manageable core recordings list, Schubert. Appreciate your input. HUGE library you have, by my standards. How the heck do you manage it?...given you have moved a bit lately or so I think.
I'll contribute with the popular, yet problematic:
Schubert Symphony No. 9 - Sir Charles Mackerras either with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Virgin Classics 1988) or the
Philharmonia Orchestra (Signum Classics 2006). Schubert's manuscript wasn't clear on the tempo of the opening movement and you'll find as many variations as there are conductors, but Mackerras nails it with (imo) the perfect tempos.
Bruckner Symphony No. 5 -
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim (elatus 2009). This is a difficult piece for conductors as there are many musical ideas to wind together to keep your interest going for 75 minutes. Barenboim's account is simply superb and holds you to the very end. (Great 16/44.1 recording also).
Mahler Symphony No. 7 -
SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, Michael Gielen (
Hanssler Classic 1993). Arguably Mahler's most clumsy symphony as it changes pace very frequently and seems to lead the listener to nowhere. This recording, when compared to others, clearly hits all the right buttons in terms of orchestra playing, phrasing and timing. The Wagnerian "Star Trek" trumpet theme is spectacular as the harps, violin and piccolos are spot on in their dynamic shading. Yes, even Bernstein takes a back seat to this one. Great 16/44.1 recording as well.
Vivaldi The Four Seasons - Soloists Orchestre National de France, Maazel (CBS Masterworks 1984?). This war horse has been recorded ad naseum with many soloists using it as a platform as an excuse to show off a bit or to read new meaning into it. This version is straightforward without any flair and is simply a delight. Recording is pretty good for its age.
For cello lovers, there’s an incredible, but pricey, set by my favorite cellist called the “Art of Maurice Gendron” on Decca. He was certainly one of the greatest cellists of the 20th century, with a tone like liquid gold. The set contains both his solo and concerto recordings. He was like none other with the possible exception of Emanuel Feurman, with whom I believe he studied.
charles1dad, Schubert did more piano duos than any other great composer. A 4CD set by two fine pianists . Christoph Eschenbach and Justus Frantz on Brilliant Classics 92858 from HMV originals gives you 4 hours of the best at a cheap price .ADD CD A dark horse with Evgeny Kissin and James Levine on RCA 8287669283-2 sounds good to me, A DDD recording .one CD .
A cello piece that might be interesting to a jazzman like yourself is Takemitsu's "Orion " a beautiful piece with piano pizzicatos , very modern classical piece that could be called avant jazz IMO .
I particularly like cello and piano duets and would appreciate all recommendations of this type.
Charles, cellist Janos Starker and pianist Gyorgy Sebok recorded three Bach sonatas (S. 1027, S. 1028, and S.1029, which may also be identified as being in G Major, D Major, and G Minor respectively) on the great Mercury Living Presence label many decades ago. I have it on an original LP, and I don't know if it has been released on CD or incorporated into a CD set or compilation. But if it has been, and you can find it, I guarantee you will be delighted!
I can believe this - I just spent half an hour posting and when I hit the post button it was lost, and guess who's sorry!
Anyway - gs5556, Re your Schubert recommendation, until I heard Mackerras and the OAE doing the 9th (and 8th) I don't think ever really appreciated it that much. I just love this version and prefer it to all others. Previously I always felt it was a bit too "Great". I felt the same way about a lot of performances of Beethoven's until I heard Harnoncourt's performances of the symphonies, just not a strongly.
Re Mahler's 7th - I like Geilen's 7th, and his others as well, however for some reason I always come back to Levine's 7th. For me his experience in the theater influenced it - it is just more dramatic, mysterious, etc.
Charles1dad, I just can't resist recommending Maria Kliegel's work. A not so well known cellist but unjustifiably IMHO. For a sample check out 'Romantic Cello Show Pieces', Virtuso Cello Encores', 'Virtuso Cello Showpieces', and Sonatas of George Onslow.
And then there is Janos Starker doing 'Romantic Cello Favorites', the music of David Popper on Delos.
And for something a bit difference check out 'Our American Roots' on Delos. Music of Gershwin, Barber, Walker and Copland. Mostly arrangements for Cello and Piano.
My contribution today is the solo piano music of Ivan Moravec. Two of his records that are just outstanding are his Beethoven Sonatas and a compilation of Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahams. This level of pianoship should not be missed by anyone who cares! He was a giant! He has a limited recorded output but these are a dozen or so more should you agree
Thanks so much for all of the recording recommendations, just fantastic. I have a lot of purchasing, discovery and listening ahead of me. I am looking forward to it with much enthusiasm and anticipation. Charles
Schubert, re: Guarneri, Debussy/Ravel--there's an LP of the later edition of the Guarneri playing the Ravel only. Two movements per side. The playing and the recording are both very fine. It's called "French Album No. 1" and well worth the money and effort if you can find it.
The focus by Schubert and others on chamber music reminds me that a number of critics and many classical music aficionados consider the Schubert String Quintet, Op. 163, D. 956, also known as Schubert’s Cello Quintet, to be the single greatest piece of chamber music ever written. It’s certainly among the greatest IMO.
I’m also reminded that it is under-represented in my collection. I have the recording by the Alban Berg Quartet with Heinrich Schiff, from the early days of digital, and the early 1970s recording by the Juilliard String Quartet with Bernard Greenhouse. (They also recorded that work in digital form in the 1980s, when some of the membership of the Juilliard Quartet was different). Both are fine performances, but leave something to be desired sonically.
Anyone else have some recommended recordings of the Cello Quintet?
I have the D956 by the
Emerson String Quartet with Mstislav Rostropovich (DG 1992). Sound quality is very good -- except the cellos are a bit forward and prominent -- and the performance is robotically flawless, with the only quibble is the adagio could use a touch more passion. I had this since it first came out and have been playing it regularly ever since.
Since we're on Schubert's chamber music: Schubert: Piano Trios Opp. 99 & 100,
Andreas Staier, Daniel Sepec & Roel Dieltiens - This is a period instrument recording and I would highly recommend it as a change of pace. Wonderful sound and an excellent performance.
Al, well you can’t have too many of Op.163 , seems to be the Holy Grail for string players. I like the Berg/Schiff myself bit I'm not very fussy over sound as a rule . One I don’t own that I remember had good sound on the ASW label with the English Lindsay Qt. with a cello player whose name I forget . My absolute fave is the Hungarian Festetics Qt with the great Belgian player Wieland Kujiken on cello. Arcana label . Hungarian ensembles stay together forever and audiences in Budapest are a tough crowd .Only place I’ve seen in recent times where audiences are mostly young people who are crazy about classical and very knowledgeable !
Glad you both are enjoying the Telarc Stravinsky/Borodin recording. As you undoubtedly saw I mentioned having that recording in LP form earlier in the thread, although I neglected to mention that in addition to the Firebird Suite it includes the Overture and Polovetsian Dances from Borodin's Prince Igor.
The latter will sound familiar to many who are not classical music aficionados because the music of the popular song "Stranger In Paradise," originally used in the 1950s musical "Kismet," was derived from it. That song in turn having been recorded over the years by many popular artists, with Tony Bennett's version perhaps having been the most popular.
In my earlier post, also, I had cited the incredible dynamic range of the Firebird recording. The most notable example being the contrast in volume between the almost whisper-like notes in the few seconds preceding the finale, and the concluding note of the work, which I've measured as reaching nearly 105 db at my listening position while listening to the recording at average levels in the mid-70s!
Great performances and sound.
Indeed! And regarding the sound, the quality is all the more remarkable considering that it was recorded digitally in 1978!
Best regards, -- Al
P.S: Schubert & Gs5556, thanks very much for your suggestions re the Cello Quintet.
Many wonderful recommendations; thanks to all. I would like to recommend the music of some less known composers and some unusual works.
A very broad historical perspective can be very rewarding and puts the music in better context, imo. The compositional evolution of the music throughout its various historical periods can be fascinating. As such, I would like to recommend a recording of the music of one of the most intriguing composers of the Renaissance period, Carlo Gesualdo. His personal life was marked by notoriety and scandal. His music was incredibly ahead of its time with the use of dissonance and chromaticism in a way that would not become commonplace for at least two hundred years. I Iove his madrigals; Book 6 in particular. Two favorite recordings:
Moving ahead almost three hundred years. One of my favorite composers, this time from the late Romantic period, Alexander Glazunov. His Violin Concerto is a favorite. Although the RCA recording by Jascha Heifetz is probably the most popular, my favorite is by the great Nathan Milstein with the Pittsburgh Symphony on EMI:
Another composer whose vocal music I really like is the Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly. This recording of the Girls Choir Of Budapest on Angel Records (EMI) is, as far as I know, available only on original lp, but is worth finding and copies should be available. It also includes choral works by Bela Bartok:
Speaking of Bartok. His string quartets are described by some as “difficult” music; of course, that is entirely relative. His Quartet No.3 is a good place to start for anyone unfamiliar with his unusual harmonic language. This recording by the Kasacs Qt. on Decca is excellent:
John Adams is my favorite of contemporary “Minimalist” composers. IMO, his music is in an entirely different category compared to the more well known Phillip Glass. This recording on Nonesuch Records of his chamber work “Road Movies” for violin and piano is typical Adams with emphasis on rhythmic impetus and the influence of other genres including jazz and bluegrass.
The OP mentions one my favorite works, Rachmaninov’s “Symphonic Dances”. Also one of my favorite records from the standpoint of sound. Fantastically natural timbres that remind me of the best of the Decca recordings (but a little “juicier”) which as much as one can generalize about recorded sound of different labels are my favorites. Pretty good performance overall; but, imo, kind of lackluster as far as individual solo performances are concerned; especially the woodwinds (the beautiful saxophone solo is borderline embarrassing in the intonation department). This version on Reference Recordings with Eiji Oue conducting the Minnesota Orchestra is my favorite:
I’ve found that I like a certain period of modernist piano- some of the work of Scriabin. I gather that one of the best interpreters was his son in law, Sofronitsky. The vinyl selections seem pretty bleak, originating from the old USSR. Any suggestions along these lines? I’ve just bought a CD of the Moscow 1960 performance. Any others, by Sofronitsky or of other composers who were creating a modern, spare sound in that period? One sort of stupid way I segued into this was the limited edition record of the Cloud Atlas Sextet, not the soundtrack, but a special record --a copy of a movie "prop" if you will--that was part of the film’s narrative, and produced in limited quantities. I did buy one when new, but it was badly warped. The price has since skyrocketed to ~$500 or so for a copy, and it’s not worth that to me.
Frogman, Glad you came to the party. Symphonic Dances has been one of my favorites. I really preferred Ashkenazy for years (I had his entire Rachmaninoff output in which I think he excels and still prefer his performance of Sym #1). I just found his performances more exciting than others available. Then I found Yuri Terirkanov and the St Petersberg PO on RCA. As exciting, and a better recording, I think. FWIW.
Off the beaten path perhaps, but I would suggest folks might enjoy the music of Joseph Suk. Some prime Czech music from the 'romantic' period which is very accessible. I can easily recommend Libor Pesek and the Czech PO. Start with 'Praga/A Fairy Tale' and/or 'Serenade for Strings/Under the Apple Tree. For something more advanced and not as accessible, perhaps initially, his Asrael Symphony. I equally enjoy Rafael Kubelik and the Bavarfian SO and Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Helsinki PO. (Can you imagine a Russian conductor and a Finish Orchestra playing Czech music? : -).
Speaking of Czech music, composers, and another Czech pianist, Antonin Kubalek. As with Moravec (my last post) Kubalek doesn't get near the accolades he deserves. IMHO, two recordings on Dorian of Brahms work are outstanding. He has quite a few other recordings on Dorian, mostly of Czech music which are worth exploring as well.
Now for Schubert enthusiasts, If you haven't heard them yet you should listen to Volodos play Schubert's Sonata in E maj unfinished and his Sonata in G maj 394. If you are just familar with Volodos more 'theatrical recording's, I think you might be pleasantly surprised.
whart, I don't know if you are asking for a recommendation of Scriabin's piano music but just in case -
You can get a set of the entire solo piano works performed by Maria Lettberg (8CD's) on the Capriccio label for chump change (unbelievable in fact, I've seen it selling for less than $30.) It's a great place to start.
The reason the Jazz post has gone on forever and a day is they link to You Tube on virtually every post . That makes it easier for someone to know if that's something they might want to purchase or not . Only poster who has done that on here so far is the respected Mapman . I would but have neurological problems that prevent my learning small things . It's hard to recommend specific recording knowing that one mans treasure may be another man's trash .
That said, I will anyway . Bach is so great that we tend to act as if classical started with him . Truth is that from the 11th to 15th century there were composers at his level but they wrote things we don't listen to much today, as in religious music .
My personal choice as best is Josquin Des Prez who was Luther's, no mean composer himself, favorite Two of his Masses are sung by The Tallis Scholars on Gimell label CDGIM 206, this was a" Gramophone Record of the Year Award" . To get that from the English Bible is the highest Critical Acclaim !
Claudio Monteverdi is woefully underplayed , his magnificent Vespers are on a great recording, Virgin 2x1 5 616662-2 starting the greatest singer of period music alive , Emma Kiirkby . There are many great recording of this , one on BIS has great sound .
Jean Philippe Rameau ,who wrote the book on harmony(literally ) , has a nice example of his lighter works on Naxos 8.553746. Almost anything recorded of him is good really .
Guillaume Dufay a 15th century composer of great eloquence has a fine rendition of his work on Naxos 8.553087 by the Oxford Camerata/Summerly. Not many dogs on Naxos, for sure the leading bang for the buck label .
John Dowland (1563-1626) Is surely one of the greatest writers of song in English. Sweet recording of that and his lute music on Naxos 8.553326 by Rose Consort of Viols .
Heinrich Schutz(1585-1672) died just before Bach was born .A VERY pious man who wrote only religious music, he is the equal of Bach in same . Bach admired him greatly and went to school on him as was usual in those days and which he freely admitted . A lovely performance of his Christmas Story()Weihnachtshistorie) is on Naxos 8.5535514 again with Summerly and his fine Oxford Singers .
I promised in my original post to list some favorite LPs, but, since they’re from so long ago I know they’ll be hard to find. So, just generally, I’ll recommend some Living Stereo records with Reiner on Analogue Productions. These are readily available.
Stravinsky: Song of the Nightingale Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra Strauss: Death and Transfiguration (not sonically great, but wonderful rendering)
If anyone wants older recommendations, please let me know. (I still have some 3000 LP’s to go along with over 5000 CDs.)